The new community vision for Downtown Missoula is complete. Following a full year of planning and community outreach and input, Missoula’s new Downtown Master Plan has been approved by the Missoula City Council as an amendment to the City’s Growth Policy and is available for public viewing on this website. More than 3,000 individuals participated in developing the new vision for Downtown Missoula, written by the award-winning planning firm Dover, Kohl & Partners.
The new Downtown Master Plan was adopted and supported by multiple agencies and governing boards, including:
Downtown Business Improvement District
Missoula City Council
Missoula Consolidated Planning Board
Missoula County Commission
Missoula Downtown Association
Missoula Downtown Foundation
Missoula Parking Commission
Missoula Redevelopment Agency
Missoula Tourism BID
Missoula Economic Partnership
“The public outreach and engagement with this planning process has been incredible,” said Tim France, President of the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) Board of Trustees. “Missoulians gave us their best ideas, and Dover, Kohl did a wonderful job of capturing those ideas and building out a new vision and strategy for the future of Downtown Missoula. Once we get through the adoption process, we can go back to focusing on implementation of the new plan. Our leadership is excited about having some new ideas and projects to improve the vibrancy of our city center.”
As a working committee of the Downtown Missoula Partnership, the Downtown Master Plan Implementation Team is comprised of nearly 20 community members who meet regularly to help shepherd implementation of the Downtown Master Plan. Each year the team sets goals and tracks progress of items in the plan. Here is the overview of accomplishments for 2020.
Missoula Downtown Heritage Plan: Completed and Adopted
Implementation is underway with the development of the Missoula Legacy Trail with Anchor #1 at the Missoula Public Library. The first Bronze Medallion is installed, and the first Information Kiosk will be installed shortly.
Guided Historic Walking Tours have been curated and offered to the public since 2018, and Tour #4 – the Missoula Legacy Dinner Tours – were part of the Foundation’s Fall Campaign to raise funds for Downtown improvements. Next year the committee plans to complete the Legacy Trail and interpretive signage, develop a more robust social media presence, and add more partnerships and programming.
As a side note, the Heritage Plan is helping to move forward the Missoula Wayfinding Plan, completed in 2013, that is also a primary goal of the Downtown Plan.
North Riverside Parks & Trails Plan: Completed and Adopted
Despite the impact of the pandemic, the North Riverside Parks & Trails Plan was completed and fully adopted by multiple organizations at the end of the year. With more than 2,000 participants who engaged in the process, the plan provides more detailed guidance and goals for the future of the parks and trails from Russell to Missoula College. As we transition into implementation, the Higgins Bridge and the Storm-water Infiltration projects create a not-to-miss opportunity to also rebuild the Amphitheater Seating to improve access and utilization, while the park is already under construction. A newly-formed Leadership Team will guide implementation, and Blue Ribbon Committee will take the lead on fundraising, and the Leadership Team will guide implementation.
West Broadway Plan & Payne Block Vision: Set Up for 2021
With two additional areas that need a deeper dive on planning and design, we have assembled the funds to retain Dover, Kohl & Partners to guide us through additional strategy for West Broadway parcels from Russell to California, south of Broadway, slated to commence this month. We also have the funds ready for a community visioning process to redefine and redesign the block previously occupied by the Missoula Public Library
Higgins Bridge: Under Construction
Following nearly five years of planning and two rounds of bidding, the rebuilding of the 60-year-old Higgins Avenue Bridge is underway and slated for completion in 2021-22. Improved infrastructure for all modes of transportation, including a finite focus on non-motorized transportation, were goals of the original Downtown Master Plan. Additional advocating and infrastructure will be needed to acquire much-needed ADA access from the bridge to the riverfront parks and trails.
Missoula Public Library: Complete & Opening in January
One of the most amazing accomplishments of 2020 was the completion of the new four-story, 60,000-square foot Missoula Public Library. As a primary third-space for Missoula the library also houses the Missoula Children’s Museum, SpectrUM Science Learning Center and MCAT, the building is slated to open in January 2021.
Business Development: Construction Booming, COVID Survival the Focus
The pandemic has resulted in a wide array of impact on businesses with some thriving and some struggling. Construction of the Marriott AC Hotel, renovation of the old Days Inn into The Wren, and façade improvements to the Radio Central Building have carried on. Both hotels are slated to open in 2021, and there is available retail and office space in the Radio Central building. The redevelopment of the Riverfront Triangle has been delayed because of COVID.
Downtown bars, restaurants and retail stores have struggled the most, but many have gotten real creative building out their digital presence and engagement, providing personalized services and deliveries, and developing a broader audience with the digital platform. Downtown employees have not fully returned to their Downtown offices, and all essentially all community events, festivals, concerts and camps were cancelled. In an effort to keep Downtown businesses open, the Missoula Downtown Foundation raised and donated over $100,000 to 80 Downtown businesses through its Support Fund. In 2020, Downtown Missoula saw 20 businesses open, 9 businesses close, and 7 businesses change ownership.
COVID Impact: Balancing Public & Economic Health
When the virus arrived in Montana, the general economy was shut down the second week of March, and reopening has been difficult and political, at best. Missoula organizations rallied the troops to weekly economic roundtable meetings, then the CARES Act was approved, opening the door for billions of dollars of federal support for businesses, schools, government and non-profits. Thanks to rapid action by the State of Montana, Missoula County entities acquired nearly $88 million dollars in federal funding to keep people employed, keep businesses open and support municipalities and schools working to reduce the spread of the virus. The impact in 2021 remains unknown.
Downtown Alley Inventory & Activation Strategy: Study Underway
Identified as an under-utilized asset, Downtown alleys will be a primary focus in 2021. The DMP is currently doing a full inventory of 30+ alleys in the Downtown district, and the inventory will inform where activation and circulation are most important and where green infrastructure and destination features could enhance the Downtown experience. The inventory should be completed in the spring with activation projects likely to come thereafter.
Housing: More Low-Income Units on the Way
The City of Missoula and many Missoula non-profits have moved mountains in the low-income housing categories with multiple project on the horizon: Trinity Apartments on Mullan (130 units), HomeWORD’s project in the Westside Neighborhood (72 units), the Villagio (200 units) in the Northside Neighborhood, and the Meadowlark (44 units) on West Third Street. Other general housing proposals are also in the works. The City’s community development and housing departments are going through a restructuring under the leadership of the newly-appointed director. Additionally, both the Poverello Center and the HOPE Rescue Mission have expanded their offerings to support more homeless individuals and families, due to the pandemic.
Long-Range Transportation Plan: Front & Main Conversion Still a Priority
Missoula is in the middle of the next update to the Long-Range Transportation Plan and should be completed by spring of 2021. Downtown priorities in the LRTP include conversion of Front & Main, Higgins Avenue Assessment, trail connection and improvements to the Broadway Corridor.
Mountain Line: Improved bus stops and expanded service
The Mountain Line Bus Stop Master Plan has been 5+ years in the making, and the improvements to all bus stops in Missoula will be completed in 2021. Additionally, Missoulians voted to support expanded weekend service, increased bus frequency on heavily-used routes, enhancements to the Zero-Fare program, and continued conversion of its fleet from diesel to electric.
Inclusivity: City funds Analysis Led by People of Color
With input from those in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community, the City has partnered with All Nations Health Center to deploy a community-wide analysis on racism and disparities, and to create a pro-equity policy agenda to advance racial and social equity in the areas of economic development and jobs, environment and climate change, housing, health, justice and mobility.
Federal Building: Feasibility Study Underway
Essentially vacant for the last five years, the Federal Building on Pattee & Pine is currently being analyzed by city and county officials to determine the potential for relocating government services to better utilize the 100-year-old building. The U.S. Government deemed the build as surplus in 2020, allowing for the potential to transfer use.
UM MonTEC Site Planning: Preparing for Growth
With a need for additional space to accommodate growth at the Montana Technology Enterprise Park (MonTEC), the University of Montana is preparing to embark upon a planning and expansion project in 2021. The Innovation Corridor will seek a private development partner to help with project implementation.
2018-19 Master Plan Funders
On behalf of the community and the Downtown Missoula Partnership, we are grateful for the financial support from these entities:
- Missoula Parking Commission
- Missoula Redevelopment Agency
- City of Missoula
- Downtown Business Improvement District
- Missoula Downtown Association
- Destination Missoula & Tourism BID
- Farran Realty Partners
- First Interstate Bank
- First Security Bank
- Providence St. Patrick Hospital
- Advanced Technology Group
- Anderson Construction
- Checota Foundation
- Community Medical Center
- Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown
- HomeBase Montana: Missoula Mercantile
- Jackson Contractor Group
- Missoula County
- Missoula Economic Partnership
- Mountain Line
- University of Montana
- Washington Development
- A&E Architects
- Boone Karlberg
- Garlington, Lohn & Robinson
- Missoula Federal Credit Union
- Old Sawmill District
- Partners, Inc.
- PayneWest Financial Group
- Terry Payne
- Stockman Bank
- S. Bank
- WGM Group
- Wipfli, LLC
- Morrison Maierle
- Caras Real Estate & Access Property Management
- EcoGeek & VidCon
- Colin & Lexi Hickey
- Southgate Mall
- Missoula Housing Authority
- Pattee Street, LLC
- Tom & Mary Lou Stergios
- Urban Renewal Associates
- Betty’s Divine
- Big Dipper Ice Cream
- Black Coffee
- Boyher, Erickson, Beaudette & Tranel
- Boyle, Deveny & Meyer
- Gatewest Property Management & Parkside Apts.
- Kembel, Kosena & Co.MacArthur, Means & Wells
- MIF Partnership
- Missoula Building Industry Association
- Missoula Osprey Baseball
- Rocky Mountain Development Group
- Williams Law Firm, P.C.